County is blue, Wyoming red
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
November 8, 2012
Teton County was an island of blue in an ocean of red Tuesday night when the presidential election ended.
Nearly 70 percent of Wyoming voters chose Republican challenger Mitt Romney, while 55 percent of Teton County residents voted to re-elect President Obama.
Only Teton County went for Obama. All the other 22 counties in the state supported the Republican candidate, most by crushing majorities.
Teton County is just different.
“The rest of the state treats us like we’re on an island,” said Tom Frisbie, chairman of the Teton County Democrats. “They tend to feel that on all levels, Jackson is different.”
He said a wave of voters registering late, as well as many young people, helped the president win the county.
He also said that a vote for Obama in the county actually helps, despite the feeling of some that it’s just a gesture.
“If you can contribute to the popular vote, that at some point bodes well for the president,” he said. “Showing support for him is better than not voting at all.”
The president’s strong showing in Teton County continues a pattern of almost two decades.
Dating back to 1992, Teton County voters have favored the Democratic candidate in each election except 2000, when George W. Bush edged Al Gore with 52 percent of the vote.
T.R. Pierce, chairman of the Republican Party in Teton County, attributed the Democratic showing to the county’s demographic. Compared to the state at large, there are more young, full-time residents in the county, he said.
“There are actually more registered Republicans than Democrats” here, but many of the large number of unaffiliated residents vote Democrat, he said.
Heading the Republican Party in the only Wyoming county that is not staunchly Republican is difficult at times, Pierce said.
“When I go to these central committee meetings, we are a bit of the anomaly here in Teton County,” he said. “Our demographics are much more diverse than in other parts of the state. To me, that’s what makes this community exciting, politically as well as socially.”
While Obama was strongly favored in Jackson Hole, all the state representatives here are Republican, a phenomenon Pierce said is due to good representation.
“There were no contested races for those positions,” he said. “That speaks well for the fact that our current representatives — Petroff, Gingery, Dockstader — have represented our constituency very well.”
Frisbie said it was because of a lack of Democratic candidates.
He pointed to Bill Winney, who ran as an independent and lost the bid for House District 22, but beat Republican Marti Halverson in Teton County. The district also covers Sublette and Lincoln counties.
“I’m sure if there had been a Demo-cratic candidate, those votes would have gone to a Democratic candidate,” Frisbie said.
The only other Wyoming counties to swing blue in presidential elections over the last two decades were Albany, Natrona and Sweetwater, and only in a handful of instances.
This year, it wasn’t even close.
Romney won all other counties with at least 60 percent of the vote. The only exception was Albany County, where he beat Obama 49 percent to 46 percent.
How far from Jackson Hole do you have to go to find a county that voted for Obama?
Two hundred and fifty miles from Jackson, in Blaine County, Idaho, voters chose Obama. The county, home to Sun Valley resort, was one of two in the state to vote for Obama.
Farther away, 400 miles north in Big Horn County, Mont., voters favored the incumbent in a landslide.